(Excerpt from an Address by HE David Granger to mark National Tree Day 2019)
The observance of National Tree Day commenced in October 2015. The Notice declaring the first Saturday in October as National Tree Day, which was gazetted on the 6th September 2017, reads as follows:
“National Tree Day is a day to be celebrated on the first Saturday of October. The celebration includes the planting and caring of tress and educating and arousing mass consciousness of the aesthetic and economic value of trees…”
National Tree Day is not a superficial ceremony. The ‘Day’ highlights the importance of trees to the economy and to the environment. The ‘Day’s’ celebrations have emphasized the aesthetic, economic and environmental importance of trees and, also, their social and recreational value.
National Tree Day is observed countrywide. This ceremony is held each year in a different Region to emphasize the economic and environmental importance of trees everywhere and to everyone:
– The first National Tree Day was held at Bartica in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni in October 2015; I emphasised, there, the importance of trees to the ‘green’ development agenda.
– The second National Tree Day was held at Iwokrama in the Potaro-Sipuruni in 2016; I alluded, then, to the role of trees in the provision of critical ecosystem services for the survival of our planet.
– The third National Tree Day was held in Hosororo in the Barima-Waini; I stressed the contribution of trees to protecting our biodiversity and arresting soil erosion.
– The fourth National Tree Day was hosted at Ebini, in the Upper Demerara-Berbice Region under the theme “Trees, Good for Community, Great for Country.”
– The fifth National Tree Day is being held here at Union Village, in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region; the emphasis is on the economic value of the trees.
Trees are essential to human existence and the preservation of our ‘green state’ of Guyana. Trees provide:
– products used by humans such as clothing, food, housing and medicines;
– protection for our biodiversity, especially our bountiful flora and fauna, including our beautiful birds;
– eco-system services, such as the regulation of the water cycle, pollination, temperature modulation, carbon sequestration and air purification; and
– beautification of our surroundings.
Trees are abundant in this country’s landscape. Guyana is part of the Guiana Shield, one of the world’s oldest geological formations and largest blocks of tropical forests and biologically rich and diverse zones. The ‘Shield’ is home to thousands of species of plants and contains 15 per cent of the world’s freshwater supplies.
Guyana boasts of five forms of forests – dry evergreen, marsh, seasonal, swamp and tropical – which cover more than 80 per cent of its territory. Forests:
• provide essential environmental and ecosystem services which protect the country’s natural capital and its people and sustain life;
• protect our peerless and priceless biodiversity; they are habitat of the more than 800 species of birds, 179 species of reptiles, 225 species of mammals and much of the 130 species of amphibians;
• sequester more carbon than the country’s human activity generates; the sequestration of carbon is helping to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases and global warming; Guyana is ‘net carbon sink’;
• provide ecosystem services. they aid in the regulation of the water cycle, water quality and pollination; our biodiversity reduces soil degradation and enhances soil nutrition; it helps to replenish the earth’s water and improve air quality;
• protect our sea defences, particularly mangrove forests from the threats of rising sea levels and erosion; they constitute a line of protection against salt water intrusion into residential and agricultural communities; and
• play the major role in our Protected Areas System which will be extended to every Region. We have committed to placing an additional 2 million hectares of forests under conservation to contribute to protecting our environment and to providing climate mitigation services to the rest of the world.
Guyana dedicated the Konashen Protected Area – located in the Rupununi and spanning an area of almost 7,000 km2 – to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, a network for forest conservation projects.
Extractive industries could present a threat to the environment. These industries, despite the economic benefits they provide, are associated with air pollution, biodiversity loss, freshwater and oceanic contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation and resource depletion.
Logging and mining are the main causes of deforestation which destroys biodiversity and could result in land degradation. Reforestation, land reclamation and the encouragement of environmentally-friendly logging and mining are two of the measures which will be employed to counter the adverse effects of extractive industries.
Trees provide a range of economic services. They provide food, shelter and medicine. Farmers reap produce from trees which allow them to earn an income, sustain their families and generate exports and employment. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries collectively account for 17.5 per cent of our employed population.
Trees are part of our country’s natural resource wealth. Trees must be valued rather than devalued by recklessly burning, bulldozing and chopping them down. They are worth more alive than dead and cold ash.
National Tree Day, for this reason, emphasizes the preservation and planting of trees rather than their destruction. Trees are vital to food security.
Food security is:
… a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
Food security means that food must be available in sufficient quantities; it must be accessible by all; and it must be acceptable in terms of meeting the dietary, nutritional and health needs of all. This country:
• enjoys a measure of food security in meat, rice, root tubers and vegetables; access to food remains uneven, however, with pockets of extreme poverty, particularly in some hinterland communities;
• has the capability to be self-sufficient in the producing foods from each of the six (Caribbean) food groups—staples, foods from animals, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and fats and oils; and
• has the capacity to ensure improved access to nutritional food for its population but it must address the deficiencies in national food security; agro-processing can help to address those deficiencies.
Paddy and sugar cane are important economic crops which have sustained our economy for more than 150 years. The Corentyne, apart from sugar and rice, enjoys a comparative advantage in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. Coconut, citrus and fruit trees can be grown in the Corentyne in large quantities producing comestibles and could be impactful on the economy.
Guyana’s exported fruits and vegetables were worth US$8M in 2018. This value is way below our natural potential and indicates that we still have a far way to go in building a robust agro-industrial base utilizing our fruits and vegetables. The potential export value of fruits and vegetables is US$ 250-350 M which will be more than the combined export earnings of rice and sugar in 2018 [according to a 2008 study by Mc Kinsy and Co].
Agro-industry – that is the production, processing and packaging of food – using modern equipment and methods on a large-scale – is a key element of your Government’s strategy to ensure food security. It does so by reducing food imports thereby making more local food available in processed form.
Agro-processing could add value to these primary products and help to make the Region more prosperous. Tree-based agro-processing can ensure greater food security. Agro-processing:
– increases food exports and adds value to food production while reducing market uncertainties associated with primary production;
– improves food security by stimulating increased demand for food production, reducing crop losses due to spoilage and diminishing food scarcity; and
– increases farmers’ incomes, generates employment, reduces poverty and boosts prosperity.
Agro-processing has the potential to transform rural and hinterland communities and augment the national economy. When value is added to primary production, its export value is increased, exports are stimulated and foreign exchange and employment are generated.
Agro-processing has been stimulating village economies, empowering small-scale producers and helping to sustain livelihoods. A quiet revolution has been taking place over the past four years because your Government has been placing emphasis on agro-processing and micro-enterprises.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the agencies over which its holds responsibility have been undertaking initiatives aimed at entrenching a stronger agro-processing sector:
– the Guyana Marketing Corporation has been providing guidance in the field of product development to agro-processors and is conducting training in packaging and labelling; this has resulted in the development of new products.
– the Guyana School of Agriculture has collaborated in providing training to women in the production of jams, jellies, juices and pepper sauces and an agro-processing facility is to be established at the School’s campus in the Pomeroon-Supenaam;
– Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibitions (RACE) and Market Days have been providing agro-processors with opportunities to showcase and market their products;
– the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute’s turmeric processing plant at Hosororo now allows for the processing of an average of 5,443 kg of turmeric per week; and sun-dried tomatoes are being produced at Paramakatoi in the Potaro- Siparuni;
– support is being provided to processing facilities at Woweta and Moco Moco in the Rupununi to allow for adequate quantities of cassava tubers for the production of farine; and
– Village-based cottage industries have been provided with training in cost-management, and small-scale farmers and agro-processors have been provided with training in business accounting.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)0
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